Legal & Tax Issues

Here is some basic information small woodland owners and managers should know.

Oregon Forest Practices Act

All “operations” (activities) on forested land are regulated by the Oregon Forest Practices Act (FPA), unless existing county (or, sometimes, city) forest land regulations meet or exceed the protections required by the state law. Activities that relate to forest health improvement and commercial harvest fall under the FPA. This includes such activities as pre-commercial thinning, herbicide applications, site preparation, road building, reforestation, and commercial timber harvest.

Very briefly, the requirements and intentions of the Oregon Forest Practices Act are:

  • Planning / Notification
    The landowner or operators must notify the Oregon Department of Forestry at least 15 days before starting operations. In some cases, the owner or operator may need to submit a written plan for the operation.
  • Reforestation
    If tree stocking is below rule standards after harvesting, landowners must plant trees within two years and have a healthy, freely growing stand by the sixth year.
  • Slash Treatment
    The forest practice rules allow burning and other valuable management tools as long as soil, air, and water are protected.
  • Chemical Application
    The rules recognize that fertilizers and pesticides are valuable management tools, if soil, air, and water are protected.
  • Landslides & Public Safety
    Harvesting and road construction on steep slopes above homes or roads are regulated to minimize the risk of landslides to public safety.
  • Road Construction & Maintenance
    The forest practice rules recognize the necessity for a well-designed and maintained road system; soils and water quality must be protected.
  • Harvesting
    The forest practice rules recognize timber harvesting as an important practice. Soils, wildlife habitat, and water quality must be protected.
  • Water Protection
    Forest practice rules require tree retention along many streams, wetlands, and lakes. Operators must protect soils, fish and wildlife habitat, and water quality.
  • Wildlife Sites
    Operators must time operations and retain trees near specific wildlife sites to protect those sites and avoid excessive disturbance of specified wildlife species.
  • Scenic Highways
    Operators must retain a screen of trees along certain state and federal highways.

Foresters with the Oregon Department of Forestry are your best resource for understanding how forest regulations may apply to your situation. The Oregon Forest Resources Institute has published an excellent guide to the Oregon Forest Practices Act, available to order online. It is also available from the offices of the Department of Forestry, OSU Extension Offices and in some libraries.

Tax Incentives & Financial Assistance

There may be tax incentive programs or financial assistance to help you accomplish certain projects on your woodland property. Since more than 44% of land in Oregon is privately owned, financial incentive programs are focused on encouraging and assisting landowners in managing their resources and meeting their objectives. Typical forestry projects can be aimed at protecting the landowner’s resources/investment from fire or insect and disease infestation, to increasing its monetary and environmental value in the future. Financial Incentives for Private Forestland Owners is a good place to start looking for financial incentive programs aimed at protecting other rural land resources such as fish and wildlife habitat.

Tax Obligations

Property that is classed under the Forestland Program is taxed at a lower rate than the rate for otherwise unclassed property. There are also some special property tax programs for land classed under the Small Tract Forestland Option.

Depending on how your property is classed, there may be additional taxes whenever timber is harvested, including a Forest Products Harvest Tax.

Check with your accountant to explore the best options for your situation and to evaluate any potential tax liability should you decide to harvest any of your timber.

Open Burning & Fire Regulations

See the Fire Protection page

More Information

Chapter 12 of Backwards Woodlands notebook provides a good overview of regulations and laws affecting the small woodland owner.

The Jackson County Rural Living Handbook by the Jackson Soil & Water Conservation District provides a good overview of rural living topics, including various rules and regulations.